GM pollution now pervasive: agency
By CLAIRE MILLER
ENVIRONMENT REPORTER <www.theage.com>
Monday 30 April 2001
Organic produce such as corn and canola imported from North America can no
longer be guaranteed free from genetically modified (GM) organisms,
according to the Organic Federation of Australia.
The federation is warning consumers that GM pollution is now so pervasive in
North America that foodstuffs containing imported ingredients cannot be
guaranteed GM-free without testing.
The warning follows an alert to the International Federation of Organic
Agriculture Movements from the independent United States certifier Farm
Verified Organic. The certifier said GM pollution of corn, canola and
possibly soybeans was now so pervasive, "we believe it is not possible for
farmers in North America to source seed free from it".
"We must come to grips with reality now. If we are to certify these crops as
organic, we must admit the potential of GMO pollution exists in the seed
itself, not to mention the potential for field and post-harvest
contamination," the authority said
Recent media reports have highlighted the problem, including a Wall Street
Journal investigation that tested 20 organic products with GM-free labels
and found 16 had traces or more of GM organisms.
This was followed by a US Agriculture Department revelation that almost 80
seed companies had found traces of the GM corn variety Starlink in their
Starlink was approved only for stock feed due to questions about its safety
for humans, but was found last year in taco shells.
Scott Kinnear, speaking for the Organic Federation of Australia, said
consumers should be alerted to the emerging crisis in North America, and
importing companies should require US suppliers to verify GM-free test
He said the issue highlighted regulatory shortcomings in Australia that were
meant to enforce compliance with the organic industry's zero tolerance of GM
organisms. "We think it is our duty of care to inform consumers of this
problem (in the US) because we believe consumers buy organic food because it
is unadulterated," Mr Kinnear said.
Mr Kinnear, who is also running as the Greens' lead Senate candidate in
Victoria, said the US problems underscored the need to amend the new Gene
Technology Act so that Australian farmers whose crops were contaminated had
the right to sue.
GM crops have not been released for general use in Australia, but the
Federal Government has approved trials in most states.